A natural extension


How one centre has used the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme to boost activity and create an instructor pathway…

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of activities for anyone aged 14 to 24. Delivered in more than 130 countries, the programme is the world’s leading youth achievement award and has helped more than 6.5 million young people develop for life and work since its launch in 1956. 

“Hundreds of thousands of young people embark on their DofE journey every year, providing a huge opportunity for RYA training centres to reach out to new audiences and engage with club members and training candidates,” explains RYA Chief Instructor of Dinghy and Windsurfing, Amanda Van Santen. 

“The activities needed to achieve the award are things that are often already happening at clubs and training centres, whether that’s volunteering, completing RYA training and gaining a certificate, participating in club racing or even going on a group expedition.”

Doing their DofE gives young people the opportunity to experience new activities or develop existing skills. There are three progressive levels of programmes which, when successfully completed, lead to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award.

The RYA were recognised as a National Operating Authority for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 2012. Today, more than 25 RYA recognised training centres are also recognised as DofE centres.

We spoke to Elaine Collier, DofE Coordinator at Aberdeen and Stonehaven Yacht Club (ASYC) about how the programme has benefitted their centre. 

An easy decision

Having run a successful junior programme for a number of years, when ASYC noticed that young people in the area were no longer able to access the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, it made sense for the club to get involved: “It was a shame for these young people to miss out on the opportunity,” says Elaine.

“Many of our junior sailors start in Optimists and then progress to becoming volunteer Assistant Instructors at the age of 14 or 15. Over the years, we’ve been asked by a number of sailors to act as their DofE assessor for one or more of the sections of the programme. More recently, there’s been a reduction in accessibility to the scheme for young people in the area, and it seemed a natural extension of the opportunities offered by the club to make the DofE available to them. We started the programme in the spring of this year.”

Getting the ball rolling

With many centres concerned about the additional administration, Elaine has found the process relatively straightforward. She explains: “Once I had established there was enough demand in the club, the first step was to apply to be recognised as a DofE centre by the RYA.

“I did the online ‘Introduction to DofE’ and attended a one day training course which qualified me to act as our DofE Coordinator. All the paperwork is online, so once I collect the consent forms, I create participant accounts on ‘eDofE’ where, once we’ve agreed what they’re going to do for each of the sections, they log their activities.”

The full package

DofE participants are already able to complete sections at their local club or training centre, but as a DofE recognised centre, ASYC can now offer the full package, with candidates able to complete all of the sections at the club:

  • Physical – regularly taking part in sailing or windsurfing activity.
  • Skill – sailing, windsurfing and powerboating can also be skills, whether it’s completing an RYA training course, working on race technique, learning to sail a double-hander or improving teaching skills.
  • Volunteering – from helping in the galley or carrying out boat maintenance, to volunteering as an Assistant Instructor or driving the powerboat.
  • Residential and Expedition – this could be an on-the-water expedition or a more traditional hike or shore-based adventure that is organised through the centre.

“Once the participants understand what is required for each section and have decided what to do, they need to approach an assessor who will sign off on their progress. Within ASYC, it’s our Principal, Ditta, but they can also choose activities outside of the club,” explains Elaine.

“Many candidates volunteer as Assistant Instructors, whereby they assist one of the junior programme Dinghy Instructors with groups of younger sailors. Some of our Assistant Instructors have accumulated 70 volunteer hours with the club this year! We then support these volunteers to progress to become RYA Dinghy Instructors, it’s a fantastic pathway.”


Thinking outside the box

Whilst most of the sections needed to achieve the award are already integrated within training centres, especially those at clubs, the expedition and residential segment can be more of a challenge. 

“The physical, skill and volunteering sections were already well established within the club and many of our instructors had signed these off for participants in the past,” says Elaine.

“As it’s our first year, when it came to the expedition section, we’ve taken the easy option and the Bronze group are doing a regular walking expedition. A number of the juniors had also already signed up for a residential sailing trip with the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland which is running as an expedition.

“For next year, we’re planning a dinghy expedition, so watch this space!”

Seeing the impact

“We’re really pleased we signed up to be part of the programme. Its early days but the young people are all extremely enthusiastic and there are already younger ones wanting to sign up next year once they’re old enough.

“It’s a way to engage with our membership, encourage participation and we hope it will bridge the gap between the juniors and adults, providing a pathway into teaching. It’s an excellent way to grow Assistant Instructors and Dinghy Instructors and we’ve also seen more non-sailing parents get involved with volunteering. 

“I would absolutely recommend offering this opportunity to young people to whom it may be closed.”

For more information about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award please click here. To find out more about DofE recognition please contact Mollie Knowlden, Mollie.Knowlden@rya.org.uk.

Wavelength September 2019